Chelsea survived a nervous finale against 10-man Benfica to earn a 2-1 win in the Champions League quarter-final second leg and set up a last-four showdown with holders Barcelona.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side were firm favorites to reach the semi-finals after a 1-0 first-leg win in Lisbon, but they were made to sweat before clinching a 3-1 aggregate success at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Frank Lampard’s first-half penalty and a red card for Benfica captain Maxi Pereira just before the break should have put Chelsea firmly in control.
However, this was a far from convincing performance from the Blues and Javi Garcia’s late header made for a few anxious moments before Raul Meireles sealed the victory in stoppage-time.
“It was a tough game and having won 1-0 away it presented us with a bit of a conundrum,” said Lampard, who scored his 22nd Champions League goal.
“It is a relief to get through as they’re a good side and deserve respect. We didn’t want to be too gung ho,” he added.
Chelsea can now look further to another grudge match with old rivals Barca, who claimed a controversial victory over the Blues at the semi-final stage of Europe’s elite club competition in 2009.
That was the most recent in a long line of explosive encounters between the two clubs and Chelsea’s sixth semi-final appearance in the last nine years looks certain to reignite the feud.
However, Di Matteo’s men will need to improve on some wasteful finishing and careless defending if they are to stun Barca and book a place in the final in Munich.
“You have to respect Barcelona, because they are the best side in the world,” Lampard said. “They will obviously start as favorites, but we have a lot of self belief and we believe we can beat them.”
Benfica boss Jorge Jesus added: “We’ve been the better team in both legs and I’m very proud of my players. We played with 10 men for the best part of an hour and made Chelsea look ordinary. We were penalized by the referee, unjustly I feel.”